This is called an “official bootleg.” It must be very rare as I can’t even find a picture of it online. My friend Lar must have gotten it for me, as I have never seen the band live and it was (apparently) only available at their shows. Or maybe I got it online during the tour? Whatever the case, it’s a great live selection of their later songs.
It’s a cool collection of songs from shows over the course of three days. It’s also interesting that the track listing is five songs from one gig, then three from the final gig and two from the middle one. The band sounds great (the live setting always suits them). On this disc, Paula Frazer sings the duet of “Buried Bones” and there are some nice backing vocals from Gina Foster and Viki St. James on the last two tracks.
It’s a rather mellow set list, but the crowd certainly enjoys it. And, as this is something of a greatest hits (of the more recent tracks), I could listen to it all day.
There appears to have been only one other “Official Bootleg”: Coliseu Dos Recreios De Lisboa – October 30th 2001. But I’ve never seen it.
[READ: October 25, 2009] “Three Fragments from a Longer Thing,” “Good People,” “The Compliance Branch,” “Wiggle Room” and “Irrelevant Bob”
These are the last pieces of uncollected David Foster Wallace fiction that I had left to read. I saved this for last because, well, they are supposedly parts of the soon to be released The Pale King. Some of these pieces are definitely from The Pale King (it states so in the magazine openings). A couple are possible contenders for The Pale King, but we won’t know until the book comes out (sometime in 2010, I’m led to believe). I had read some of these pieces before but it is much more satisfying to read them together.
The strange thing for me about these pieces is that when I read the New Yorker titles initially, there was no indication that the pieces were excerpts. They treated them as short stories (even giving them titles). So, when you read them, they feel like something is missing (namely 900 more pages). And in many respects, I think that’s bad for the author. Sure its good to get the work out there, but when a story feels unfinished, it leaves a bad taste in the readers’ mouth.
All the bold text comes from The Howling Fantods. He gives summaries of where the fragments come from. And since he’s a much bigger DFW fan than I am, I’m going to assume that when he says something is from TPK, he knows what he’s talking about.
“Three Fragments from a Longer Thing”. Lannan Readings & Conversations; Dec. 6, 2000. [NOTES: In December of 2000, DFW read three pieces he referred to as 'fragments' and which he said were from a longer thing (possibly "The Pale King" but this remains unconfirmed). Listen to the reading here or read it, lovingly transcribed by yours truly, here.]
DFW read these pieces aloud in 2000. [The audio, by the way is fantastic. It really brings to life the technical and medical sections of the story.] The Longer Thing is never specified, but it’s possible that it is The Pale King. These fragments have no direct connection to the later fragments below, but with any DFW novel, you never know how people are going to connect in a book!
FIRST & THIRD FRAGMENT
The first and third fragments are about the same unnamed boy. This boy, when he was six, decided that he wanted to press his lips to every single inch of his body. It wasn’t a sexual thing, it was more of an ownership thing. And so, he sets out to press his lips everywhere. When he ends up dislocating something, the chiropractor shows him proper stretching techniques and ways to ensure spinal health (without actually asking what the boy was doing).
These chiropractic sections are filled with very technical medical passages. But DFW has gotten his pacing down so well that after every couple of highly professional lines, he throws in a hilarious non sequitir. (“No lollipops were anywhere in view.”)
The third fragment continues this boy’s quest. He’s now older and is showing severe physical deformities from his stretching exercises. He also acknowledges that some portions of his body will be extremely tough (like the back of his head), but he is determined.
I can’t imagine how this would fit into a larger novel. The boy has virtually no connection to the outside world. But I do hope it is, because I’d love to find out more about him and his family. He spends hours at a time trying these crazy contortions. Surely they must think something is amiss.
What a strange conceit.
The second fragment concerns a different boy. This boy is named Leonard Stesek and he is the most generous, thoughtful, giving boy ever. And everyone hates him because of it. And then they feel bad that they hate him, which makes them hate him even more.
This story was so funny for Leonard’s outrageously over the top safety procedures (calling his father every hour on the hour, except when the phone gets disconnected and then calling the phone company to get it fixed) and outrageous generosity (rather than accepting an ice cream from his dad, he requests the money go to UNICEF).
I loved this fragment. It was funny and twisted. As with the previous one, I absolutely cannot imagine what more he could do with this. What would Leonard be like as a grown up?? And, I can’t imagine how it would fit in with a novel.
I mention these fragments not fitting because the excerpts below which are from the novel concern an accountant and his work and home life. And he is clearly not one of these above boys. But, given the disparate characters and character arcs in IJ, it’s not outside of the realm of plausibility. I hope something more comes of these, but I’m satisfied with the fragments.
“Good People”. The New Yorker; Feb 5, 2007. [NOTES: Excerpt from "The Pale King." Read it here.]
This piece doesn’t say in the New Yorker that it is from The Pale King, but it is the same character as the later story that does, so…
This is a very affecting story about a young couple facing a very important decision. I won’t say what the decision is, but it is quite obvious once the story gets going. The story concerns the awkwardly named Lane Dean. (It’s not easy to say). He and his girlfriend sit by the river. He is trying to get up the courage to talk to her, yet he remains in his head through most of the story.
There’s very little else to it, but it is powerful and very detailed. As with many of these fragments, it is weird to read something that is clearly not complete. This piece does work as a fragment, and you can definitely become invested in these characters. But it would be even better within a longer story.
“The Compliance Branch”. Harper’s Magazine, Feb. 2008. [NOTES: This excerpt from "The Pale King" was originally presented at a reading for le conversazioni on Feb. 7, 2006 as "Untitled Excerpt from Something Longer That Isn't Even Close to Halfway Finished Yet." This version was printed and distributed in a booklet, available here. The Harper's version is available here.]
Harper’s also does not state that this is from The Pale King, but given the work location of the unnamed character, it works quite well as part of the novel.
This is a twisted little story about the narrator’s Group Manager and his son. From time to time the Group Manager brings his baby into the office with him. He has a nursery type set up in his office. But that’s not important, because the focus is on the baby. The baby is described as “fierce, intimidating, aggressive” as he hangs there in his papoose.
In DFW’s inimitable style, he describes the workings and contraptions of the baby gear as if he had never seen any of the apparti before (“a modern, ingenious mobile supporting device”). After pages of being freaked out about this baby, the day arrives when he is asked to “babysit” the boy. (The reasons why are part of the story and are a little too detailed to give here). From there it just gets more surreal.
This hilarious passage will hopefully have a delightful payoff in the novel. I enjoyed it immensely.
“Wiggle Room”. The New Yorker; March 9, 2009. [NOTES: Excerpt from "The Pale King." Read it here.]
I reviewed this piece back in March.
But having read the other fragments (especially “Good People”) at the same time as this one, made this one that much more powerful. Lane Dean, having accepted his decision from the earlier story is now in a soul sucking job. One where he watches the clock incessantly and thinks of the definition of the word “boring.”
He is an IRS auditor who must double check completed files. And he hates it.
As the story comes to a close, he is visited by what may be a ghost or a spirit of the office. He sits on Dean’s desk and talks to him about the word “boring” and then leaves.
The amazing part of the story is the intensely detailed opening pieces about boredom. You can palpably feel the boredom that Dean is dealing with, and yet the writing itself is not boring. That is no mean feat. I feel like the novel would explain more about this ghost figure (although with DFW, possibly not), but regardless, it will obviously feature more of Lane Dean and his life and challenges.
“Irrelevant Bob”. The New Yorker, WEB ONLY; March 9, 2009 [NOTES: A newyorker.com-exclusive fragment of probably an excerpt from "The Pale King" (this remains unconfirmed) presented as two scanned pages of annotated manuscript. Read it here.]
It’s barely worth mentioning this in a review. It is two pages long and ends in the middle of a sentence. It is notable for the fact that it is manuscript in process, with corrections and editing comments. So, for the DFW fan, that’s interesting. The two pages concern an unnamed narrator (in first person) who is talking about his memory, or lack of it. Not that he can’t remember things, but that everything he remembers is mundane and 1970s pop culture-y (the clothes they wore, the TV shows they watched (Saturday Night Live features prominently). And that’s about it. It’s an interesting character set up, but it’s impossible to say anything more about it.
As I mentioned, many times, The New Yorker will publish pieces with a title, and it seems like a short story. But fragments are not short stories almost by definition. I can remember reading “Wiggle Room” and enjoying it but feeling dissatisfied with the end (and not in a DFW-the-story-ended-without-finishing way). Knowing they are part of a longer thing, and reading them together like this has done nothing but whet my appetite for The Pale King. Despite my initial concerns about releasing the novel without DFW’s final input, now I really can’t wait for the book to come out.